By Matthew Barrett
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Interviewed from Mexico this morning's Murnaghan show on Sky News, George Osborne defended his decision not to cut fuel duty – he said that today it is is 6p lower than if he had not delayed previous rises:
"I’ve taken action in the last two fiscal statements – in other words the Budget and my Autumn Statement – to either avoid a fuel duty increase that was coming, or indeed in the Budget last year, cut fuel duty, so fuel duty is six pence lower today than it would otherwise have been, so I have absolutely shown a willingness to response to the international situation and we have taken action this year. I’m not going to talk about the Budget, tempting as I know it is, because that’s several weeks away, but I have taken action already this year to avoid increases in fuel duty which were planned by the last Labour Government, and that’s involved committing several billion pounds of resources, it’s involved putting a tax on oil companies instead of families and motorists and businesses, precisely to ameliorate the impact of these high world oil prices on the British public."
Osborne, who is attending a Finance Ministers' G20 meeting, also announced that he would "consider" giving more money to the IMF – a remark bound to anger Tory MPs unwilling to bail out the €urozone through the back door:
"We’re prepared to consider IMF resources, but only when we see the colour of the €urozone money, and we have not seen the colour of the €urozone money, and so whilst this G20 conference, I think, has a lot of important things to discuss, and we will talk about IMF resourcing, I don’t think you’re going to see any additional resources committed here, because quite frankly the €urozone have not committed additional resources themselves, and I think that quid pro quo will be clearly established here in Mexico City."
Finally, Osborne refused to confirm the story reported in this morning's newspapers that he is unwilling to consent to Lib Dem mansion taxes:
"The Liberal Democrat ambition for a mansion tax is well-known. They’ve certainly made no secret of it – it was in their election manifesto, and issues about council tax bands have come up before, certainly come up before the last two Budgets. I’m not going to comment on the speculation, just as I didn’t back then, because it’s a slippery slope once you start commenting on individual budget stories when you’re preparing a budget, but as I’ve said, we have already taken measures to make sure the tax system is fairer: I increased the capital gains tax for wealthier people in my first budget, and I’ve taken action on stamp duty avoidance, and that’s something we’re definitely looking very closely at now. These are wealthy people who just avoid stamp duty when they buy and sell a home. That’s something that I’ve made very clear is unacceptable."